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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 85: Slade 117
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Once they were inside the bunker, the questions were relatively simple--either the insignificancy spell would keep them from being noticed, or it wouldn’t. If it didn’t, they would have to deal with being seen; if it did, they would reach their quarters unobserved and would be able to consider their next step as they packed their gear. They walked through the halls; they saw soldiers, but passed none of them closely. Still, he thought it likely that their “insignificancy” was working.
He wondered at that concept. If he were invisible, he could poke people, and they would know they had been poked but not who poked them. He could certainly attack someone, probably even kill him. There would also be downsides--crossing a busy street would be hazardous, because drivers would not know to avoid him. That was a clear advantage of being insignificant, because people were subconsciously aware that someone was there, they just weren’t paying attention to who. How much could he do before he ceased to be insignificant? If he stepped in front of someone several times, so the person had to go around him, would he notice him? If he poked someone, would he realize someone had poked him, or only feel the impact? If he stabbed someone, would he cease at that moment to be insignificant to him?
They reached their quarters while he was still musing on these questions, and he decided there probably was no easy way to get the answers. Shella apparently recognized that he was lost in thought, and went about packing, interrupting him only to ask for help shaking and folding the quilt. It took only a few minutes, and then she was waiting for him.
“What now, my lord?” she asked, and he stood thinking, maybe blinking, for a moment. The beginning of an idea was forming.
“I am wondering whether we ought to stop by his office and thank our host for his hospitality,” he said.
Shella smirked. “I do not believe Colonel Mlambo would be pleased to see us.”
He smiled back. “No, I don’t think he would. But let’s look at this the way Lauren would see it. We arrived here to find Joe had just arrived, and because Joe was here we were safe here; we stirred up some healthy fear of the whites, but also contributed something to their understanding of how the whites think. Then we left, and before we knew it the tables had turned, and Joe was able to move among the whites because he was with us. While he was there, he gave them advances in medicine that would move them forward at least a generation, maybe a century. But then we came back here, where we started; and so I’m thinking there is something we haven’t finished here. I don’t know what it is, and maybe it would be better to hide here and spy on them for a bit, but we might get there faster if we make our presence known.”
She shrugged. “You usually know what you’re doing,” she said.
“No,” he answered, “but my hunches tend to be a bit lucky. Bring the gear, and let’s do this.”
As they stepped into the hall, Slade cast his insignificancy spell again, and heard Shella do the same a few steps behind him.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #257: Verser Relationships. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: